By Ross Forman
He doesn’t score goals seemingly at will like sophomore forward Jack Gerber, or carry the playmaking skills of junior forward Sam Paley. But Sam Schwartz is every bit a star this season for Deerfield High School.
Schwartz spotlights the on-ice work of all Warriors.
He is the announcer/DJ for Deerfield games, both varsity and JV – and one of the many bright spots for Deerfield (5-7), a rejuvenated program celebrating its 45th season and trying to climb in among the elite in the 13-team Champions League of the IHSHL North-Central Division, now led by Lake Forest (11-3-1), followed by Loyola Maroon (9-3-1).
Schwartz, 16, a sophomore and Deerfield resident, has been announcing Deerfield games for the past year. He makes every game special, every moment meaningful and simply brings excitement to the rink.
“No matter the level, JV or varsity, it’s fun to come and support the team, especially because I know a lot of players on both teams,” said Schwartz, who plays for the school’s baseball team. He also serves as the backup announcer, when needed, for other school-supported sports, often serving as the official scorer or game-clock operator for football and basketball, soccer and field hockey.
His announcing started with the Deerfield Youth Baseball Association (DYBA), which he still does.
Hockey announcing, he said, “is truly a blast.” His excitement and energy is nonstop.
“(Hockey announcing) gives (me) a chance to be creative in so many ways. The crowd is way more rowdy because it’s not on school grounds, and the (bigger) the crowd, obviously the better the atmosphere. That being said, with JV, I’m able to kind of color outside the lines a little because it’s more casual. (Both) level (have) perks.”
Schwartz, seated in the scorer’s box with his computer, rosters and stats, is the man for in-game music, too. “Instead of a sport like baseball or basketball, where it’s less songs, more of each song, I can (play) more songs for shorter amounts of time, (such as during) stoppages, which usually last 15 to 35 seconds. But take a song like Livin on a Prayer (from Bon Jovi), people are a lot more used to jumping right into the chorus in hockey than having to wait from the beginning (of the song).”
Schwartz’ announcing is up-to-the-minute, so, when Gerber tallied in the Warriors’ Nov. 17 win over Nazareth, he told what number goal that was for Gerber on the season.
Schwartz also handles the pre-game ceremonial puck-drop duties, which Deerfield has incorporated into its anniversary season. Deerfield mayor Harriet Rosenthal had the honor before the Nazareth game, while wearing a Deerfield jersey. Former Deerfield standout Mike Wiggemansen (class of 2014) has the honors when the Warriors play archrival Highland Park on Nov. 21.
Of course, Schwartz introduces the starting lineups, too.
“In terms of my favorite part, (it is) not necessarily (a) moment, I think it’s gotta be that I bring something to Deerfield games that most teams don’t have for high school hockey. I want to make our games special, something that your everyday game probably won’t have,” Schwartz said. “I want those who play hockey but haven’t gotten to high school yet to see the atmosphere it can be, because the little things like that could add up with other factors and inspire that player to put in the work and in the long run that will make the future of the program better and more people will want to see the Warriors play.
“My favorite part of the game itself is, (when) there’s a big student section (because) it is very satisfying and cool to see everybody dancing or bobbing their heads to the beat of a song.”
Schwartz also, at times, has run the clock and handles scorekeeping duties.
“I spend a lot of time working on (the music) at home, so that it is at my fingertips during a game, because it gets so chaotic at times,” he said. “About 50 percent of my (in-game) music is rock or metal, 25 percent is electronic dance music because our team likes that genre, 10 percent is stuff that people over all generations recognize, and 15 percent is a hybrid somewhere in between all three of those (genres).”
Schwartz also brings sounds – organ music, TV show themes, or maybe a movie theme song.
He has a few constants, too. When Deerfield goes on the power play, for instance, he plays the Star Wars Imperial March on the organ which goes right into Intoxicated by Martin Solveig, which many know as Anthony Rizzo’s walk-up song.
Schwartz delivers shots-on-goal for both teams after each period.
Schwartz’ favorite announcing moment came last season in a playoff game against New Trier, a team then-coached by current Deerfield head coach Randy Schlesinger.
“A few months (before that game), I was on a plane to Miami with someone who played hockey at New Trier, (though) I forgot his name (during the playoff game),” Schwartz said. Deerfield was leading 2-0 late in the third period when coincidental penalties were called.
Schwartz announced the penalties, and the players continued trash-talking each other in the penalty box – with Schwartz in the middle of them.
“When I turned to confirm the player numbers, the same guy from the plane makes eye contact with me. The trash-talking stops, (there’s) dead silence beside the music playing, and (the New Trier player) says, ‘Were you on a plane to Miami in August?’”
Schwartz laughed, and they shook hands.
The players then continued trash-talking.
So, do you get nervous before games?
“If I said ‘No,’ I would be lying. It’s kind of like a nervous excited, (but) once the game begins and I’ve done the introduction scripts, the nervousness turns to alertness,” he said.
At The Rink With … Deerfield Announcer/DJ Sam Schwartz
Favorite NHL Team: St. Louis Blues
Favorite NHL Player: Vladimir Tarasenko
The 2019 Stanley Cup Champion Will Be: Tampa Bay
Favorite Professional Athlete: David Freese
Best High School Jersey (other than Deerfield): Highland Park
Worst High School Jersey: LZMW
Giving Thanks: “I can’t thank Randy Schlesinger and (club president) Keith (Brown) enough; they are absolutely amazing. Not only do they accept and welcome what I do, they support it and help make it easier and better.”
Deerfield Hockey Players: “It’s hard to entertain a team, and fans, when I don’t always know what they want to hear. From the goal horn which I edited, to some sound effect ideas, to music ideas, I always am open to know what kinds of stuff people want to hear.”
Long-term Announcing Goals: “I just want to stay involved with it. It’s fun for me, and for the players. I want to do it as long as possible. Even though I’ve only worked at (the) high school level and lower for various sports, there’s something unique about each level, and I want to make each game special for the players and the parents.”
All-time Favorite Announcer and/or Broadcaster: Vin Scully. “I always enjoyed listening to him because the stories he would tell could put you in the shoes of the players, and his style sparked a relationship with me and the players I might not have ever seen in person and the game of baseball. He broadcast 67 years of Los Angeles Dodger baseball, and I wear the number 67 to honor that.”
Career goals: “Journalism is something I want to go into when I am older. It is something that I have a fire of passion to keep learning about. It is something I truly value.”
Ross Forman has written about Illinois high school hockey for more than 15 years and is the only sportswriter to have covered Illinois High School hockey every year during that stretch. He played locally and then at Indiana University before becoming a referee. Ross was a referee for the State Championship game several years ago at the United Center. Contact Ross by email at Rossco814@aol.com.
Categories: Hockey Headlines